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Oil and Gas Industry Eyes 19 Projects and Counting to Export Natural Gas
New Food & Water Watch Report Explains Why Fracking for Oil and Gas Will Not Deliver U.S. Energy Security and Independence
WASHINGTON - November 14 - A new report released today by the national consumer advocacy organization Food & Water Watch takes aim at the oil and gas industry’s claim that fracking and drilling for natural gas and tight oil will deliver U.S. energy security. U.S. Energy Insecurity: Why Fracking for Oil and Natural Gas is a False Solution reveals that as of October 26, 2012 the Department of Energy has received 19 proposals to export liquefied natural gas, including the Dominion Cove Point facility in Calvert County, Maryland. If approved, these projects would allow the oil and gas industry to sell huge amounts of natural gas overseas—as much as 40 percent of current U.S. consumption.
“The hype over fracking is giving Americans a false sense of energy security,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The industry is making empty promises about U.S. energy security to prolong America’s destructive dependence on fossil fuels. At the same time, it is laying the groundwork to sell natural gas overseas to maximize profits. The gas will go wherever it can fetch the highest price—and right now that’s not the United States.”
According to the report, the industry is also misrepresenting U.S. natural gas and tight oil supplies. Its claims rely on uncertain estimates of shale gas resources and on allowing the oil and gas industry to drill not just throughout the Marcellus Shale and other shale plays, but also all along the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Even if the industry’s vision holds true, Food & Water Watch calculates that plans to create increased demand for U.S. natural gas translate to a supply of just 50 years and would require drilling hundreds of thousands of new shale gas wells.
In Maryland, the industry has already targeted the Marcellus Shale in two counties in Western Maryland, and recent United States Geographical Survey findings point to a possible expansion of drilling and fracking operations to central and southern Maryland, as well as to the Eastern Shore — all within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Between the Marcellus and Taylorsville shale basins, there is an estimated 1,146 billion cubic feet of shale gas, translating to about three years worth of natural gas for Maryland, though much of it could be exported instead.
If the Department of Energy approves an application from the Dominion Cove Point facility, which sits where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, natural gas from all over the Atlantic region would be exported from the location.
“I'm concerned that if Maryland begins fracking in 2014, export of natural gas at Cove Point would turn Maryland into a sacrifice zone and give us a false sense of energy security,” said Maryland Delegate Shane Robinson. “Why should we risk Maryland's precious water resources, our public health, communities, and air so we can ship natural gas abroad? It doesn't make any sense. That's why I will introduce a bill in January to ban fracking in Maryland before it starts.”
As for tight oil, Food & Water Watch argues that no amount of conceivable production will lower the prices American consumers are paying at the pump. This is because the price of oil is set on a global market. Even so, the U.S. EIA estimates that there are 33.2 billion barrels of recoverable tight oil—enough to last the U.S. just under five years based on 2011 consumption.
Reduced oil consumption is the only way to protect the American economy from the consequences of increased global demand for oil as conventional supplies decline. Meanwhile, proven energy efficiency and conservation solutions, coupled with renewable energy technologies, avoid the environmental or public health costs of fossil fuels and promise a foundation for sustained economic growth.
Food & Water Watch instead urges local, state and federal governments to:
- Enact aggressive energy conservation policies, including large public transportation investments and widespread energy efficiency solutions, to reduce energy demand
- Establish ambitious programs for deploying and incentivizing existing renewable energy technologies to increase clean energy supplies
- Modernize the U.S. electrical grid so that it caters to distributed renewable power generation
- Invest in research and development to overcome technological barriers to the next generation clean energy solutions
- Terminate public funding for the fossil fuel industry
Using natural gas to displace oil to fuel transportation and coal to generate electricity is suppressing the promise of renewables and keeping us dependent on fossil fuels. The potential expiration of production tax credits, generally low electricity demand due a struggling economy and the currently low prices of natural gas are combining to threaten the domestic wind industry.
“Gas is no bridge fuel, and investing in the infrastructure to support this would make the U.S. dependent on dirty fossil fuels for several more decades and would sacrifice our health and communities to the industry’s thirst for profits. We need to ban fracking and remake our energy system now,” concluded Hauter.
U.S. Energy Insecurity: Why Fracking for Oil and Natural Gas is a False Solution is available here: www.foodandwaterwatch.org/reports/us-energy-insecurity/